A BBC documentary that showed Chinese teachers trying to cope with pupils at a school in Britain has won top marks from viewers in China, where the first episode of “Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School,” was seen earlier this week.
In the program, five Chinese teachers attempted to give British students in year nine lessons in math, science, Mandarin and PE.
Viewers who streamed the program in China were amused by British children, in tracksuits commonly worn by Chinese high schoolers, doing exercises and attending flag-raising ceremonies under their new teachers’ supervision.
Hearing familiar phrases like “Be quiet!” “Use your brain!” and “Read after me!” repeatedly during the program, some microbloggers gloated about teenagers in other countries finally having a taste of their tough classroom experience.
However, the documentary showed the British students chatting, making a noise and even putting on makeup as the teachers struggled to get their attention, a situation rarely seen in China, where a glance from a teacher will usually silence most errant youngsters.
One Chinese viewer commented online that he enjoyed seeing rebellious Brits “doing a good job of driving their teachers crazy,” something he would like to have done but never dared back in his schooldays.
Others found it interesting how the experiment exposed cultural differences.
Although many admitted that, due to a large population, limited resources and tough competition for jobs, Chinese students have to compete hard for high marks, they appreciated that their British counterparts enjoyed a freer and easier school environment.
Another viewer suggested online that Chinese teachers should learn to interact with students more equally. “One-way lecturing won’t help students’ creative thinking. It’s no coincidence that very few Chinese have won Nobel prizes,” the viewer’s post said.
Chu Zhaohui, a researcher with the National Institute of Education Sciences, said that unquestioning obedience originates in Chinese tradition, but was not necessarily a good legacy to be passed on today, when young people are more aware of and identify with individual values.
Chu noted moves in China to reform an education system which evaluates a student based almost entirely on exam scores. “However, we have to admit that, considering the economic and social factors in this developing country, change will be limited for now.”
But while some Chinese acknowledge weaknesses in their education system, some in Britain see merit in it.
An article on the Daily Express website claimed that British students lacked self-discipline and motivation compared to their Chinese peers.
“Yep. A large number of our kids are lazy, do not want to learn, misbehave and show no respect for teachers. And I’m a teacher,” was one reader’s comment.
Some Chinese viewers joked that Chinese TV channels should invite British teachers to teach Chinese students in China and see what happens.